With wireless CarPlay becoming more and more common among car manufacturers, Volkswagen is another brand that has embraced the technology and I recently had a chance to test out the German automaker's implementation in the 2021 Volkswagen Tiguan.

tiguan 2021 exterior
The 2021 Tiguan is available in five trims, starting with S trim at a little over $25,000 and going up to the SEL Premium R-Line at just about $40,000. My test vehicle was the SEL trim at a step below the high-end, and it comes in at around $32,500 plus destination.

The Tiguan SEL and SEL Premium R-Line come with Volkswagen's new MIB3 Discover Media system, which includes a primary 8-inch infotainment screen with built-in navigation, as well as App-Connect phone integration. For the driver, there is a Digital Cockpit instrument panel with configurable options for showing an array of information from the traditional speed, fuel, and range data to driving directions, audio details, elevation, compass, and more.

The mid-range SE and SE R-Line trims come with the MIB3 Composition Media system that offers nearly the same features as the Discover Media system with the exception of built-in navigation. The entry-level S trim comes with an older MIB2 system and a 6.5-inch Composition Color screen that only offers wired ‌CarPlay‌ and cuts back in other areas, so you'll need to step up to at least the SE trim to start taking advantage of the latest infotainment features.

tiguan 2021 mib3 homeMIB3 infotainment system home screen

My overall impression of VW's latest infotainment system is that it's a relatively clean and responsive system that works well but doesn't have a lot of flash to the interface. That can be good for minimizing distraction, but I also prefer a little bit more flair to help user interface elements stand out a bit more.

VW does some interesting things with proximity and gesture sensing on its infotainment system, tracking where your hand is in front of the main display and reacting accordingly. For example, at rest, some of the on-screen icons shrink and labels fade away, but as your hand approaches the screen, they expand and some get highlights around them to help draw your attention. It's kind of a neat trick that helps deliver a simple look for the system most of the time and only complicates the visual when you're interacting with the system.

tiguan 2021 radioInfotainment radio screen

Gesture control also allows you to perform some basic tasks without even touching the infotainment screen, such as waving your hand to move between menus and change radio stations or audio tracks. VW isn't the only car manufacturer to try gesture controls, but they still feel like mostly a gimmick to me.

tiguan 2021 statusVehicle status screen

As for the main infotainment screen itself, it's an 8-inch display with a resolution of 800x480, and that's really starting to feel like the bare minimum when it comes to a native infotainment system. ‌CarPlay‌ in particular feels a little bit cramped when it comes to the interface, and you don't get the bonus of extra screen real estate from the native system surrounding it since ‌CarPlay‌ takes over the whole screen.

tiguan 2021 carplay dashboard‌CarPlay‌ dashboard view

I found the system to be responsive both in the native infotainment experience and in ‌CarPlay‌. I also appreciated the dedicated "App" button alongside the screen to make it easy to hop into ‌CarPlay‌ at a single touch from anywhere in the native system. The only minor quibble I have is that I would have preferred the app button to the left of the display rather than the right for convenience, as it was one of the most frequently used buttons during my time with the vehicle.

tiguan 2021 carplay home‌CarPlay‌ home screen

While ‌CarPlay‌ takes over the entire main infotainment screen, preventing single-screen viewing of both ‌CarPlay‌ and any aspects of the native system simultaneously, the Digital Cockpit helps a bit in this regard, allowing for the display of additional data like audio information or turn-by-turn navigation instructions from the native system.

There's one other ‌CarPlay‌ trick up the system's sleeve, and that's the ability to display ‌CarPlay‌ turn-by-turn navigation from Apple Maps in the Digital Cockpit. Dual-screen support for ‌CarPlay‌ was introduced as part of iOS 13 in late 2019, but support for it has only just started rolling out to vehicles, so VW is definitely a leader in adopting it. It's important to note that the Digital Cockpit requires the SEL or SEL Premium R-Line trim, so you will need to step up toward the top end to take advantage of all of the available tech functionality.

tiguan 2021 cockpit apple maps‌CarPlay‌ ‌Apple Maps‌ with turn-by-turn navigation in Digital Cockpit

The graphics for second-screen ‌CarPlay‌ navigation aren't fancy on the Tiguan, but they're similar to those for the native system with directional arrows and distances for upcoming turns, street names, distance to destination, and predicted arrival time. The one area where these ‌CarPlay‌ directions came up a little short compared to the native system was in lane guidance, as the native system displayed them in the Digital Cockpit while ‌CarPlay‌ directions did not.

The convenience of wireless ‌CarPlay‌ pairs nicely with wireless device charging, and VW has things covered in that regard in the Tiguan with a convenient charging cubby at the base of the center stack. It fits my iPhone 12 Pro Max with a little bit of room to spare, and a rubber mat keeps your phone in place.

tiguan 2021 front usb wirelessFront USB-C ports and wireless phone charger

As with many vehicle wireless chargers, it only charges at 5 watts, so it won't be able to quickly recharge a depleted phone battery, but it can help keep your phone topped off on longer road trips. The biggest win here is that the charger is standard, unlike with most manufacturers where it typically requires an upgraded package on lower trims, if it's even available at all without stepping up to a high-level trim.

For wired connections, VW has gone all-in on USB-C with a pair of those ports at the base of the center stack adjacent to the wireless charging pad. A third USB-C port (charge-only) is located on the back of the center console for second-row seat passengers. The SEL trim of the Tiguan also comes with a third row of seating, but there are no USB ports for these passengers.

tiguan 2021 rear usbRear charge-only USB-C port

Overall, I'm thrilled to see wireless ‌CarPlay‌ rapidly expanding across car brands, and the bottom line with VW is that it's done a solid job of integrating it into the native infotainment system. I do wish the main screen was a bit bigger or at least higher resolution with the ability to see more on the screen.

I'm really glad to see early adoption of second-screen ‌CarPlay‌ functionality, as that's a fantastic way to help integrate the two systems and use your preferred system for different functions, though you do need to move up to a minimum of the SEL trim to have access to it. I haven't yet been able to test second-screen ‌CarPlay‌ in a vehicle with a head-up display, but ‌CarPlay‌ does support turn-by-turn directions on those as well.

I also hope we'll see more options from Apple for second-screen ‌CarPlay‌ content, whether it be additional content types like full music support or even being able to expand a more feature-rich ‌CarPlay‌ experience across several screens on vehicles that have multiple large screens.

Wireless charging is always great to have alongside wireless ‌CarPlay‌, so I was glad to see the Tiguan equipped with a convenient charging pad, and it's included on all but the lowest trim that lacks wireless ‌CarPlay‌ anyway.

Another charging port in the second row would have been nice to see to help avoid charging squabbles among siblings on road trips, and even a third-row charging port could come in handy, although given the tight fits of third-row seating in mid-size SUVs like the Tiguan, they're mostly for use only in a pinch and I wouldn't ordinarily expect them to get a ton of use on longer trips where charging is more important.

Related Roundup: CarPlay

Top Rated Comments

mattopotamus Avatar
19 weeks ago
VW is consistently on the ball with implementing new technology. They actually provide a lot of bang for your buck in the features department.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
ikramerica Avatar
19 weeks ago

Ive been behind the wheel of a VW since 1998. I won’t drive anything else, and I have even owned Audi
Having owned Audi, VW, MB and 1x BMW, Toyota, Nissan and Mazda, the VW delivers usable tech in a more roomy package for much less money than the other german cars without the gimmicks of the Japanese. Granted they are underpowered to not compete with Audi, but they use similar engines, so there’s an app for that… well, it’s a chip flash from goapr.com.

After having adaptive cruise in both our VWs (included in many trims and reasonable packages, not just an overpriced package like other german brands) I won’t buy a car without it.

Having lived with the unusable Mazda head unit, and not wanting to deal with the convoluted Audi infotainment and overpriced MB options, we have settled on VW going forward. Taos is next…
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
iapplelove Avatar
19 weeks ago

VW is consistently on the ball with implementing new technology. They actually provide a lot of bang for your buck in the features department.
Ive been behind the wheel of a VW since 1998. I won’t drive anything else, and I have even owned Audi
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
yossi Avatar
19 weeks ago
800x480 - is that a joke??
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
ry3bee Avatar
19 weeks ago

It's important to note that the Digital Cockpit requires the SEL or SEL Premium R-Line trim, so you will need to step up toward the top end to take advantage of all of the available tech functionality.
This feature works on non-digital cockpit as well. There is a small screen between the analog clusters that shows turn-by-turn navigation.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
jashsayani Avatar
19 weeks ago
Haha, I just purchased a new 2021 Tiguan a couple of days ago. I love the Wireless CarPlay. But the wireless charing seems slow. If I want to go short distances (less then 15 mins), I will leave my iPhone in my pocket. For longer rides (1 hour), I might need a USB cable to plug in my phone. My car (SE) does not have Virtual Cockpit, but still shows Apple Maps directions in the instrument cluster. I did not want to wait for 2022 model that includes Virtual Cockpit in all trims.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

belkin magsafe charger

Review: Belkin's $99 2-in-1 MagSafe Charger is Perfect for an iPhone 12 and AirPods

Wednesday March 17, 2021 12:35 pm PDT by
Belkin recently introduced the $99 Boost Charge Pro 2-in-1 Wireless Charger Stand with MagSafe, which joins the existing Belkin-branded 3-in-1 MagSafe Charger that came out earlier this year. Belkin continues to be the only third-party accessory maker that offers Apple-approved MagSafe-compatible charging accessories that are able to charge Apple's iPhone 12 models at the maximum speeds, so...
2021 vw id4

Review: Volkswagen's ID.4 EV Features Wireless CarPlay and a Gorgeous Infotainment System

Friday May 14, 2021 10:35 am PDT by
Amid surging interest in electric cars, Volkswagen recently made a splash with the ID.4, its fully electric small SUV that has gone with a futuristic and minimalistic interior that relies on its massive main infotainment screen to handle a wide array of vehicle functions. The 2021 Volkswagen ID.4 was launched in a special 1st Edition trim with special badging and other details, and while...
iphone 12 purple verge

iPhone 12 in Purple Reviews: 'More Lavender' But 'Unmistakeable'

Thursday April 22, 2021 6:18 am PDT by
The first reviews of the iPhone 12 in Apple's newly-introduced Purple color option for the spring have now been shared by various media outlets and YouTubers, and the overall consensus is that the new color is more of a lavender shade than purple. Image via The Verge The Verge's Dieter Bohn described the new color as "more like a lilac," but still said that it was unmistakable: It's a...
belkin magnetic charger 1

Review: Belkin's $39 Magnetic Wireless Charger is Limited to 7.5W, But Comes With 20W Power Adapter

Wednesday May 12, 2021 1:10 pm PDT by
Since Apple launched the MagSafe-enabled iPhone 12 models, accessory makers have been coming up with various magnetic charging options that are designed to replace the standard Qi-based chargers available for iPhones. Belkin recently launched the Boost Charge Magnetic Portable Wireless Charger Pad, which is one of its more affordable charging options at $29. The Magnetic Charger Pad is not...
planet audio carplay main

Review: Boss Audio's New Head Units Deliver Wireless CarPlay for Just $400

Wednesday December 16, 2020 6:00 am PST by
Boss Audio and sister brands Planet Audio and Sound Storm Laboratories today are introducing new car stereo head units that include support for wireless CarPlay and Android Auto at a price of just $400. With a capacitive 6.75-inch screen and support vehicle features like a rear camera and steering wheel controls, the new systems offer a solid value for those with older vehicles looking to update...
blackbrook airpods max case main image

Review: BlackBrook's AirPods Max Leather Cases Give Protection in a Practical Design

Thursday June 3, 2021 6:52 am PDT by
Based in Florida, BlackBrook Case makes a range of high-quality leather goods, including cases for the iPhone, AirPods, iPad, and AirTag, as well as Apple Watch bands. One of BlackBrook's latest products is a case solution for AirPods Max, which works both with and without Apple's own Smart Case and seeks to address some of the criticisms that have been leveled at protecting Apple's over-ear...
sonnet pucks

Review: Sonnet's Latest eGPU Breakaway Pucks Give Your Intel Mac a Graphics Boost and Extra Connectivity

Friday March 19, 2021 12:09 pm PDT by
Back in January, Sonnet announced updated versions of its eGPU Breakaway Pucks, offering new options equipped with Radeon RX 5500 XT and RX 5700 graphics processors for Intel-based Macs. The docks connect to a host Mac over Thunderbolt 3 and allow for more powerful graphics capabilities than the included graphics in many Macs while also providing some dock capabilities such as additional USB...
pacifica 2021

Review: 2021 Chrysler Pacifica Shows Off Uconnect 5 With Wireless CarPlay

Wednesday March 10, 2021 1:10 pm PST by
A couple of years ago, I took a look at the 2018 Chrysler Pacifica and its Uconnect 4 infotainment system featuring CarPlay and Android Auto, which I found to be a well-designed and visually appealing system with great CarPlay integration. Fiat Chrysler, which merged with Groupe PSA earlier this year to become Stellantis, is now starting to roll out its next-generation infotainment system,...
verge imac m1

M1 iMac Reviews: Impressively Fast With Long-Awaited Redesign

Tuesday May 18, 2021 6:18 am PDT by
The embargo has lifted on reviews of Apple's new 24-inch iMac, powered by the same M1 chip that debuted in the 13-inch MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, and Mac mini last year. We've gathered up impressions of the colorful new computer below. The most striking aspect of the new iMac is its long-awaited redesign, with an ultra-thin 11.5mm chassis that comes in up to seven vibrant colors, including...
2021 ford f150

Review: Ford's SYNC 4 Brings Wireless CarPlay to the 2021 F-150

Tuesday May 25, 2021 11:02 am PDT by
The massively popular F-150 pickup truck was one of the first Ford vehicles to gain the manufacturer's new SYNC 4 infotainment system for the 2021 model year, and I recently had a chance to test out the vehicle to get a sense of how the overall system functions, including a key new feature for iPhone owners: wireless CarPlay. If you've shopped pickup trucks before, you know that they come in ...